“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B King
Traditionally, curriculum access for students with disability has centered on providing selected opportunity based on potential. That is, making assumptions about a student based on aspects such as their diagnosis, circumstance, functional impacts, the personal bias and opinions of others, and moment-in-time data. With this manufactured potential in mind, opportunities are then limited or offered with condition, and often reflect a pre-determined path of low-expectation and restriction.
If we flip this default response and consider the concept in reverse, what results is a position where opportunity is utilised as a means of unlocking true potential. If we provide age-appropriate, commensurate opportunity based on the notion of presumed competence and value in diversity, what results is the authentic possibility for limitless and infinite potential. We bypass the danger and harm of inequity and ablesim, and instead give back power and choice to the student.
The Australian Curriculum:
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is committed to the development of a world class, high-quality and equitable curriculum that promotes excellence for all Australian students. It recognises that all students are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning programs that are drawn from a challenging curriculum that also responds to their individual learning requirements.
To support the realisation of the Australian Curriculum’s responsiveness to diverse student populations, specific advice, discussion and exemplars are explored via the Student Diversity tab of the website. Amongst this information is reference to the three-dimensional design (learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities) of the curriculum, and how recognition of its entirety contributes to the overall inclusive capacity and potential. This methodology is supported through the inclusion of a flowchart that has been developed to illustrate the process for utilising the three-dimensional design. The process applies to all students, regardless of their circumstances, progress in learning or the type or location of school they attend:
Further exploration of the suggested core practices and curriculum adjustment processes is provided below…
Age-equivalent Learning Area Content:
In an inclusive classroom, it is important that the teacher has a clear understanding of the intent and the demands of the regular, age-equivalent curriculum content. That is, an ability to articulate exactly what students need to know and be able to do to be successful in the summative assessment task, and to therefore achieve the objectives of the associated Achievement Standard from the Australian Curriculum (or the associated Syllabus components for those systems not accessing the stand-alone version of the Australian Curriculum).
Undertaking an alignment process that draws out the links between the assessable elements of the Achievement Standard, how they are represented in the context of the assessment task, and where they culminate in the marking criteria; allows teachers to identify the exact set of knowledge, understanding and skills that students are required to learn.
Teachers can use this information to map out purposeful learning opportunities and progressions that engage students in input and output experiences which are highly relevant and responsive to the curriculum. This clear focus allows teachers to identify what the core concepts and learning demands are (Achievement Standard), and to make informed decisions about designing instruction that enables students to access, participate and learn. This can occur through universal design and eliminating unnecessary barriers from the outset, as well as by providing responsive adjustments.
Utilising the General Capabilities:
The three dimensional design of the Australian Curriculum includes a series of seven General Capabilities. The General Capabilities are experienced through the content of the learning areas. They offer opportunities to “add depth and richness to student learning,” and also provide a basis for differentiation and adjustment.
Having knowledge of the General Capabilities and their contribution to the learning areas allows teachers to personalise age-equivalent curriculum content. The General Capabilities can be utilised to vary the curriculum input and output modes, and differentiate skills and attributes that result in equitable opportunity for students to access, engage with, and demonstrate learning.
Identifying opportunities to utilise the General Capabilities alongside learning area curriculum is therefore a valuable process. It is recommended that this identification occurs during curriculum alignment – allowing teachers to draw out aspects such as the literacy demands alongside the intent of the Achievement Standard, resulting in holistic clarity of what needs to be explicitly taught and supported, and what barriers may need to be addressed.
Aligning the General Capabilities also allows for the identification of opportunities to incorporate aspects such as social skills, critical and creative thinking and the use Information Communication Technologies authentically throughout the unit. These types of general capability skills are important aspects for all students, but may also provide opportunity to explicitly teach, model and practice more targeted and personalised goals for students within the context of curriculum and the general education classroom.
Accessing Alternate Points on the F-10 Sequence:
For a variety of reasons, students may experience cognitive impacts that affect their ability to progress through curriculum complexities and amounts at the same rate as their peers. If such impacts are not adequately supported through the application of quality, differentiated teaching and learning, which incorporates universal design principles and adjustments (including those related to the General Capabilities); then students may access an alternate point of the F-10 sequence of achievement . This process is also applied for students who are distinctly capable of progressing through learning content beyond their chronological grade level.
The Australian Curriculum learning area content has been designed as a continuum of Content Descriptions and Achievement Standards. This allows for knowledge and skills from the same content area to be accessed and built upon at varying entry points from Foundation to Year 10. The continuum design allows all students to access age-equivalent, regular contexts for any Australian Curriculum subject area, and to be assessed, graded and reported at an appropriate complexity.
The continuum design provides opportunity for teachers to align the varying curriculum entry points for any student to their age-equivalent unit of study and summative assessment; allowing full access, participation and learning to occur alongside peers in the general education classroom. This allows teachers to be responsive to the personalised learning needs of all students, whilst maintaining high expectations and equitable experiences.
Alternate/adapted Syllabus documents in other States are also designed following similar principles and can therefore be modified via the same considerations.
The decision to provide curriculum at an alternate access point should be made via a rigorous, evidence-informed process in collaboration with the student and their parent.
This provision is not appropriate when a student requires support with communication, literacy demands, engaging with Standard Australian English, or access to curriculum input and output modes (including summative assessment demands and conditions) – these impacts and barriers can be addressed via universal design, quality differentiated teaching practice and supplementary adjustments (see Multi-tier System of Supports). An alternate access point should only be considered when there is strong evidence to support an inability to engage with the thinking and doing across the entire learning area, even when barriers have have been removed and quality teaching has been provided. Each learning area should be considered in isolation. If a student is able to demonstrate any part of the age-equivalent Achievement Standard, than the provision of an alternate access point is not appropriate.
Likewise, if a student is able to demonstrate thinking and doing beyond their age-equivalent Achievement Standard across an entire learning area, evidence-informed consultation and collaboration should occur to determine the provision of accelerated progress and extension.
A guide for making informed decisions about the provision of curriculum at an alternate access point is provided below:
Individual Learning Goals:
A small number of students may require ongoing intensive teaching that is highly individualised and comprehensive as a result of disability impacts that effect their ability to access and engage with an Achievement Standard on the F-10 learning area continuum at that point in time.
In this instance, highly individualised curriculum is developed by utilising the extended General Capabilities (General Capability levels prior to Foundation) to modify the learning area focus and complexity. The extended General Capabilities of literacy, numeracy, and personal and social capability are used in this instance to not only provide adjustment for access and participation, but to also form the focus of individual learning goals across the entire curriculum.
Teachers utilise the extended General Capabilities to align with individual learning goals, and plan for multiple opportunities to develop these as part of the delivery of age-equivalent content within regular learning areas.
When teachers align highly individualised learning goals to a student’s age-equivalent unit of study, utilising the learning area content and experiences as the vehicle for delivering individualised learning, students can continue to be successfully included with their peers in the general education classroom.
The focus for students who access individual learning goals should still centre on rigorous learning and progression. Goals should be reviewed regularly to ensure students are being appropriately challenged and are advancing along the extended General Capabilities continuum toward an entry point on the F-10 Achievement Standards.
For information on how curriculum adjustments are enacted within the general education environment, explore the information provided on the Teaching and Learning page.